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2017 Reading Stats!

January 2, 2018 2 comments
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The most liked shots for 2017 from my bookstagram

Every year, I wrap up the old year and start the new one here on the blog with a look back at my reading stats.  You can see my stats for the years 2009201020112012201320142015, and 2016 by clicking on the years.

Total books read: 56
Average books read per month: 4.67
Month most read: February with 8
Month least read: A tie between May and December, who both had 2
Longest book read: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey with 1,015 pages.
Favorite book read: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Fiction: 50 (89%)
Nonfiction: 6 (11%)

Female Author: 43 (78%)
Male Author: 13 (22%)

Ebook: 31 (55%)
Print: 12 (22%)
Audiobook: 13 (23%)

Top Genres:

  1. Chick Lit: 17 (30%)
  2. Fantasy: 8 (14%)
  3. Scifi: 8 (14%)
  4. Thriller: 6 (11%)
  5. Nonfiction: 6 (11%)
  6. Historic Fiction: 4 (7%)

Star Ratings:

  • 5 stars: 0 (0%)
  • 4 stars: 28 (50%)
  • 3 stars: 22 (39%)
  • 2 stars: 6 (11%)
  • 1 star: 0 (0%)

Thoughts and Goals:

My only goal for the year I set for myself was to read 12 print books, and I just barely hit that. I continue to be out of room for my print books at home, though, so this year I’m going to up that goal to 24. Since I generally aim for one book a week that’s two books a month in print.

My Audible subscription is for one book a month, and I had some credits stockpiled, so I’m happy to see I read just more than my subscription is for. Currently I have three extra credits, so I’d like to read 14 audiobooks this year.

I’m disappointed that I only read 6 nonfiction books this year but I also understand why. I needed my reading to be down-time, and I struggled to identify nonfiction reads that would be relaxing in addition to educational. My goal this year is to hit 12 nonfiction reads that I enjoy.

I aim for over half of my books to be by female authors, and I way surpassed that this year. I think this reflects how much chick lit I read more than anything!

Speaking of which, while I’m not surprised by the fact that chick lit has taken the most read genre, I do want to express appreciation to my readers who’ve stuck with me. I know I used to be a primarily scifi/fantasy blog, and I appreciate you continuing along on my reading journey wherever it leads.

I am shocked that I didn’t have a single 5 star read this year but pleased that my reads at least skewed toward highly enjoyable with so many 4 star reads. I hope next year I find at least one 5 star read but of course I can’t set that as a goal because that’s something that just happens to you.

Thank you to everyone for sticking with me in a year where I was struggling to find a way to fit book blogging into my life in a way that still works for me. I think the monthly summaries will ultimately work well for me, and I’m excited that I got caught up on 2017 in time for 2018. Looking forward to recapping my January 2018 reads for you all. If you want to see or hear from more of me in the meantime, I welcome you to follow my bookstagram.

 

 

2016 Reading Stats!

December 30, 2016 5 comments

Every year, I wrap up the old year and start the new one here on the blog with a look back at my reading stats.  You can see my stats for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 20132014,and 2015 by clicking on the years.

Total books read: 59
Average books read per month: 4.92
Month most read: August with 7
Month least read: July with 3.
Longest book read: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski with 705 pages.

Fiction: 49 (83.1%)
Nonfiction: 10 (16.9%)

Series: 24 (40.7%)
Standalone: 35 (59.3%)
With my new commitment to read only things I enjoy, this reflects a lot of me reading the first book in a series and then choosing not to continue because I didn’t enjoy it quite enough, so there was more room for standalones this year.

Formats:
–print:  8 (13.6%) (Down quite a bit from last year.)
–ebook: 42 (71.2%)
–graphic novel: 0 (0%) (I’ve honestly lost most interest in graphic novels.)
–audiobook: 9 (15.3 %) (Almost the same as last year. My final audiobook of the year that I am still on is dragging, hence the slowdown.)

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I’ve always read slightly more female than male authors but this is a vast majority this year, as opposed to 2015’s 57.7% female authors. I think this is a reflection of my commitments to read what interests me and stop being ashamed of it, particularly chick lit. This meant more female authors. Interestingly, my ratings of books by women show that I like them significantly better.

Ratings of Female Authors:

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Ratings of Male Authors:

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Not a single one of my 5 star reads was by a male author.

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This went down, largely because I only accepted 6 ARCs this year. You’ll note that I still read indie books that were not ARCs. I do struggle to find indies, though, since my reading list is often influenced by other book bloggers, and I find that many of them don’t seek out indie reads quite the way I do. That means it can be harder for me to find the indie reads.

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I thought glancing at this that I did poorly reading pre-2000s books but the goal I set for myself last year was for 20 to 25% of my reads to be pre-2000s, and I actually surpassed that with 27% of my total reads being pre-2000. I still felt like it was a bit low, though, so for 2017 I’ll aim for 30%. I’ll keep going up til I hit the sweet spot.

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I read slightly fewer adult books this year, with more YA and also a new venture into NA. I’m happy with this distribution.

Genres:
–Scifi: 12 (20.3%)
The subgenre I read the most of in scifi was outer space (50%).
–Contemporary: 9 (15.3%)
–Fantasy: 7 (11.9%)
The subgenre I read the most of in fantasy was urban fantasy (71.4%).
–GLBTQ: 7 (11.9%)
–Chick Lit: 6 (10.2%)
–Mystery: 6 (10.2%)
The subgenre I read the most of in mystery was an even split between cozy and traditional.
–Thriller: 6 (10.2%)
–Nonfiction – self-help / psych: 4 (6.8%)
–Romance: 4 (6.8%)
–Nonfiction – history: 3 (5.1%)
–Historic Fiction: 2 (3.4%)
–Horror: 2 (3.4%)
–Nonfiction – biography: 2 (3.4%)
–Alternate history: 1 (1.7%)
–Nonfiction – lifestyle: 1 (1.7%)
–Nonfiction – memoir: 1 (1.7%)

My top two genres are scifi and contemporary, followed by a tie between fantasy and GLBTQ lit for third place.

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A marked improvement over last year with 4% more 5 star reads. The rest of the star ratings remained similar distributions to before, but I generally felt a larger enjoyment of my reading. I think more 5 star reads helped with that.

General Thoughts on the Stats

You can see my new focus on reading what I enjoy rather than making reading a chore most reflected in the genres I read, the number of ARCs read, and surprisingly in the gender of the author. I did not set any intentions on what gender of author to read and yet seeking out books I was fairly certain I would enjoy led me to more women authors. I think that’s interesting.

I was also surprised by the strong presence of contemporary fiction this year. I didn’t used to perceive of myself as someone who found contemporary lit to be escapist, but apparently it works for me now. While I still have a dominant showing in scifi and fantasy (32%) this is far down from the 50% last year. This shows that venturing into new or returning to old well-loved genres left less room for scifi and fantasy but I still visited them and enjoyed it.

I am quite happy with how my stats look this year. The only thing sticking out to me as a goal for 2017 is the format of books. I am out of room on my print book shelf at home, and I can see why with only 8 of my reads being in print. While I prefer reading on my kindle paperwhite (for convenience), there are still books you can only get in print. These are what are taking up my shelves. I’d like to read 1 a month to continue to allow myself to pick up the not available digitally books as I see them.

I hope you all had a good reading year and found my reviews helpful in your pursuit of good books.  Sending best wishes for everyone’s 2017!

Thoughts on Marriage on Our First Wedding Anniversary

September 26, 2016 2 comments
A collection of selfies from our first year of marriage.

A collection of selfies from our first year of marriage.

It may perhaps seem odd to some given that my parents divorced when I was 15 (messily) and I’m not religious, but I actually view marriage with a real serious near-reverence. I think it’s important, and I don’t think it’s something to be entered into lightly. I think it’s something to be entered into with a clear mind of a fully-formed adult, and I view the commitment it entails very seriously. If your life is a wheel then your marriage is at the center of it with everything else flowing from it. Your decisions are no longer what is best for me but rather what is best for us and our marriage.

I know I’ve only been married for a year so it’s not like I’m some giant sage of wisdom. But I do think a year out I can answer some questions people who have never been married have about marriage and what it’s really like. And I think too that as the recipient of much (unasked for and asked for) marital advice that I can offer up the one that I’ve thought about the most over the year.

So first, to answer the questions: Yes, it does feel different. Being married is far different from being in a long-term relationship or living together. You are a family unit, one that is recognized by society. And there’s (for me anyway) a certain level of certainty. I can (and should) make decisions taking my spouse into account because he’s my spouse. I can 100% know that making this decision by taking into consideration his needs and desires is the right thing to do because he’s always going to be there.

And on the other side of the coin, I know if I have a bad day or if something awful happens that I can depend on him to be there for me because that’s what being a spouse is. It’s being there in the good times and the bad, and I can rest assured that he will be. It’s a sad fact that my father passed away in the first year of our marriage, and my husband was there for me. In the middle of his own grief, he put mine first. He held me. He brought me food and got me to eat. He helped clean out my father’s trailer, taking charge and much of the weight off of my brother and myself. And he gave me space to be angry about it too, and let me know that was ok and valid.

Another question people ask is: how hard is it really to change your name? Damn hard. In fact, I’m only halfway through it because it’s all awful annoying time-consuming paperwork and honestly I got a bit derailed when I was grieving. But I wouldn’t change changing my name for the world. So, I’ll tell you this: if you’re considering changing your name for any reason besides it’s what you want don’t do it. The only thing that makes all the hassle something I’m able to deal with is because of how very much I love being Amanda Nevius.

So what’s the piece of advice I’ve meditated on the most? It was from an article that a college friend posted, actually, and I can’t remember the name of it, but the gist was: don’t lose your marriage over a wet towel on the floor. What does that mean? The petty things can build up over time and make you start to resent each other. So if your spouse perpetually leaves a wet towel on the floor, choose how you react. Don’t let it annoy the crap out of you. Consider: is losing my marriage worth the fight over this towel? And if it’s not (and it shouldn’t be) then just pick it up and put it in the hamper yourself and choose not to be annoyed.

On the flipside of that, if you’re the spouse leaving a wet towel on the floor and you know it bothers your spouse even though you can’t for the life of you understand why (it’s the bathroom floor after all) consider: is losing my marriage worth the convenience of dropping this towel on the bathroom floor rather than putting it in the hamper? If it’s not (and it shouldn’t be) then just start putting the damn towel in the hamper because it’ll make your spouse happy and choose not to be annoyed about it. Obviously this extends to other things, and it makes a real difference on the whole tone of the relationship. It’s not “stop doing X annoying thing” it’s instead “I love you, so I’ll modify this small part of my behavior for you,” whether that’s picking up the towel for them or remembering to put it in the hamper in the first place.

I think it also an excellent reminder that there’s things that aren’t right or wrong; they’re preferences. And being aware of your spouse’s preferences and being sensitive to them is an act of love. I view it as an active meditation on love.

A year out, I feel closer to my husband now than I did on the day of our wedding, and that’s good and right and how it should be. I look forward to growing closer to him every day.

2015 Reading Stats!

December 30, 2015 8 comments

Every year, I wrap up the old year and start the new one here on the blog with a look back at my reading stats.  You can see my stats for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 by clicking on the years.

Total books read: 52
Average books read per month: 4.33
Month most read: July with 7
Month least read: September with 2. This is no big surprise, since that’s the month I got married!
Longest book read: The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson with 763 pages

Fiction: 46 (88.5%)
Nonfiction: 6 (11.5%) (I read slightly less nonfiction this year.)

Series: 26 (50%)
Standalone: 26 (50%)
(I’m fascinated that this wound up exactly 50/50!)

Formats:
–print:  13 (25%) (Almost the same as last year.)
–ebook: 27 (51.9%)
–graphic novel: 2 (3.8%) (I successfully read 2 of the graphic novels I already own. I believe I have 2 left.)
–audiobook: 10 (19.2%)

New Categories
I decided to track a few new categories this year.  The author’s gender, whether the book is indie or traditional, the publication year of the book, and the target age-range.  Snazzy graphs for all of these!

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I read more female than male authors.  This isn’t a surprise, since I actively seek out scifi and fantasy by female authors.

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You will definitely hear about some indie books if you follow this book blog! 😉 Note that I only accepted 6 ARCs to read this year, so that means I read 7 indie books I sought out myself.

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I mostly read books from the 2000s. I did solidly touch upon the 1970s and 1980s.  I’d like to read a bit more from older books next year.  Maybe up to more like 20% to 25% of my total.

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I mostly read adult books.

Genres:
–Scifi: 14 (26.9%)
The subgenre I read the most of in scifi was dystopian (28.6%).
–Fantasy: 13 (25%)
The subgenre I read the most of in fantasy was urban fantasy (46.2%)
–Historic Fiction: 5
–Horror: 5
–Contemporary: 4
–Nonfiction history: 4
–Romance: 4
–GLBTQ: 3
–Mystery: 3
–Nonfiction science: 3
–Chick lit: 2
–Alternate history: 1
–Erotica: 1
–Nonfiction cookbook: 1
–Nonfiction self-help / psych: 1

Number of stars:
–5 star reads: 3 (6%)
–4 star reads: 26 (50%)
–3 star reads: 20 (38%)
–2 star reads: 3 (6%)
–1 star reads: 0 (0%)

This was a slower reading year than last year, but given everything that happened (my wedding and the loss of my father), I’m happy I was able to make my goal of one book a week.  Honestly, next year I intend to keep the same goal and focus my energy on writing more. I think a book a week is a good amount for a writer to read.

My new stats I tracked this year show with hard data what I already know.  I mostly read adult books and read more female than male authors, although I do still read a strong minority of male authors.  I also read a strong minority of indie books.  I’m interested to see how this changes with time, and with some of my new reading goals, which are such a big deal I’m going to be making a whole separate post about them.

I’m disappointed I only had three 5 star reads this year.  Where were the heart-gripping life-changing books?

The other thing of note is that half of my reads were scifi or fantasy.  This blog is half scifi/fantasy and half eclectic, lol.  I noticed throughout the year I wasn’t wanting to read thrillers, but I didn’t realize I’d read none.  I’ve definitely changed from a thriller reader to a mystery reader.

Normally I would talk a bit more about my future goals, but as I mentioned earlier, those are significant enough this year that they deserve their own future post. So keep an eye out for that!

I hope you all had a good reading year and found my reviews helpful in your pursuit of good books.  Sending best wishes for everyone’s 2016!

 

Nonfiction November: Fiction and Nonfiction Book Pairings

November 10, 2015 11 comments

I was looking forward to this week’s theme of Nonfiction November the most, because one of my favorite parts of being a librarian is “reader’s advisory.”  Reader’s advisory is when you chat to a person about what they enjoy reading, what they’re interested in, what they’re looking for, and recommend a few books to them as books they might enjoy reading.  (I don’t get to do this a ton as an academic medical librarian, but it does still come up sometimes).  I view this as a book blogger version of that.

For this, I thought I would select out a few of my favorite fiction books and seek out nonfiction books that would pair well with them.  If you read and enjoyed the fiction, consider checking out the nonfiction.  Of course it will also work the other way around!  If you’ve read the nonfiction book and enjoyed it, consider checking out the fiction.

First Pairing: Sled Dogs

Wolf howling at moon.The Call of the Wild
by:

Jack London
Fiction
Blurb:
Buck is a spoiled southern dog enjoying a posh life when one of the family’s servants steals him and sells him away to be a sled dog for the Alaska gold rush.  Buck soon goes from an easy life to one of trials and tribulations as the result of humans fawning over a golden metal, but it might not be all bad for him in the wild Alaskan north.

covergoldrushGold Rush Dogs
By:
Jane G. Haigh
Nonfiction
Blurb:
Dog lovers and history buffs will delight in this collection celebrating the beloved canines that offered companionship, protection, and hard work to their masters in the Far North.
Why pair it?
Buck, the main character (and dog) in The Call of the Wild is trained to be a sled dog for the gold rush (not the Iditarod).  This nonfiction book is about the gold rush dogs.

Second Pairing: Women in Ancient Japanese Court Life

A Japanese warrior woman's face has the shadow of cat ears behind her. The book's title and author name are over this picture.Fudoki
By:
Kij Johnson
Fiction
Blurb:
An aging empress decides to fill her empty notebooks before she must get rid of them along with all of her belongings to retire to the convent, as is expected of her.  She ends up telling the story of Kagaya-hime, a tortoiseshell cat who loses her cat family in a fire and is turned into a woman by the kami, the god of the road.

coverdiaryDiary of Lady Murasaki
By:
Murasaki Shikibu
Nonfiction
Blurb:
The Diary recorded by Lady Murasaki (c. 973 c. 1020), author of The Tale of Genji, is an intimate picture of her life as tutor and companion to the young Empress Shoshi. Told in a series of vignettes, it offers revealing glimpses of the Japanese imperial palace the auspicious birth of a prince, rivalries between the Emperor’s consorts, with sharp criticism of Murasaki’s fellow ladies-in-waiting and drunken courtiers, and telling remarks about the timid Empress and her powerful father, Michinaga. The Diary is also a work of great subtlety and intense personal reflection, as Murasaki makes penetrating insights into human psychology her pragmatic observations always balanced by an exquisite and pensive melancholy.
Why pair it?
Fudoki features tales being told by an aging empress that illuminate women’s lives in ancient Japan.  This nonfiction period piece is a diary by a real woman with an insider’s view of the same court life.  Although not written by an empress, she was an empress’s companion.

Third Pairing: We’re Living in the Future the 1800s Scifi Imagined

Simple cover image containing a broad off-white background on the top third of the cover and a red background on the bottom two thirds. The book's title and author are printed on the background.The Time Machine
By:
H.G. Wells
Fiction
Blurb:
Nobody is quite sure whether to believe their eccentric scientist friend when he claims to have invented the ability to travel through time.  But when he shows up late to a dinner party with a tale of traveling to the year 802,700 and meeting the human race, now divided into the child-like Eloi and the pale ape-like ground-dwelling Morlocks, they find themselves wanting to believe him.

cover_inthebeginningIn the Beginning…Was the Command Line
By:
Neal Stephenson
Nonfiction
Blurb:
This is “the Word” — one man’s word, certainly — about the art (and artifice) of the state of our computer-centric existence. And considering that the “one man” is Neal Stephenson, “the hacker Hemingway” (Newsweek) — acclaimed novelist, pragmatist, seer, nerd-friendly philosopher, and nationally bestselling author of groundbreaking literary works (Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, etc., etc.) — the word is well worth hearing. Mostly well-reasoned examination and partial rant, Stephenson’s In the Beginning… was the Command Line is a thoughtful, irreverent, hilarious treatise on the cyber-culture past and present; on operating system tyrannies and downloaded popular revolutions; on the Internet, Disney World, Big Bangs, not to mention the meaning of life itself.
Why this pairing?
Wells and Stephenson are both considered masters of the scifi genre.  In this nonfiction piece, Stephenson explicitly draws comparisons between modern culture and the one envisioned by Wells in The Time Machine.

Fourth Pairing: Scandinavia Is Perfect….Or Is It?!

Silhouette of a person standing in a white hall.The Unit
By:
Ninni Holmqvist
Fiction
Blurb:
In the Sweden of the near future women who reach the age of 50 and men who reach the age of 60 without having successfully acquired a partner or had children are deemed “dispensable” and sent to live in “a unit.”  These units appear at first glance to be like a high-class retirement home, and indeed they have all the amenities.  The residents, however, are required both to participate in medical experiments and to donate various organs and body parts up until their “final donation” of their heart anywhere from a year or a few years after their arrival in the unit.  Dorrit arrives at the unit depressed, but accepting of her fate as the result of her independent nature, but when she falls in love, she starts to question everything.

fixedcoverThe Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia
By:
Michael Booth
Nonfiction
Blurb:
The whole world wants to learn the secrets of Nordic exceptionalism: why are the Danes the happiest people in the world, despite having the highest taxes? If the Finns really have the best education system, how come they still think all Swedish men are gay? Are the Icelanders really feral? How are the Norwegians spending their fantastical oil wealth? And why do all of them hate the Swedes?
Michael Booth has lived among the Scandinavians, on and off, for over ten years, perplexed by their many strange paradoxes and character traits and equally bemused by the unquestioning enthusiasm for all things Nordic that has engulfed the rest of the world, whether it be for their food, television, social systems or chunky knitwear.
In this timely book he leaves his adopted home of Denmark and embarks on a journey through all five of the Nordic countries to discover who these curious tribes are, the secrets of their success and, most intriguing of all, what they think of each other. Along the way a more nuanced, often darker picture emerges of a region plagued by taboos, characterised by suffocating parochialism and populated by extremists of various shades.
They may very well be almost nearly perfect, but it isn’t easy being Scandinavian.
Why this pairing?
The Unit is a unique dystopia in that it is set in Sweden and takes various aspects of Swedish culture to their dystopic extremes.  Since Scandinavia often comes across as idealistic, it was interesting to see a dystopia set there.  This nonfiction work takes a long tough look at Scandinavia and exposes the minuses (in addition to the pluses) of living there. 

That’s it for my pairings! I hope you all enjoyed them.  I know that I certainly found a few new books for my wishlist!

Nonfiction November: Your Year in Nonfiction

November 5, 2015 8 comments

Nonfiction November: Your Year in NonfictionHello my lovely readers!

This month I’m participating in Nonfiction November, a book blogger event cohosted by four different bloggers (not including myself) that brings our attention to our nonfiction reads.  Each week has a different topic, and this week’s asks us to look back at our year in nonfiction.

So far in 2015, I’ve read 6 nonfiction books.  They are, in order of when I read them:

I think it’s interesting to note that exactly half of my nonfiction reads were by women and half by men.

Now, on to the discussion questions about my reads!

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?
I’d have to go with Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War.  Although I have a BA in History, I never had much interest in the Civil War.  This book’s title intrigued me, and then the content more than lived up to it.  It held my interest, was easy to read (without being dumbed-down), and I still learned a lot from it.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
Definitely Garlic, an Edible Biography: The History, Politics, and Mythology behind the World’s Most Pungent Food–with over 100 Recipes.  I actually texted two of my friends while I was still reading it with snippets about garlic.  Since a lot of my friends enjoy cooking and gardening, and this hit on both of those interests, it led to me recommending it more often than some of my other reads.

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?
Usually I read at least one self-improvement nonfiction read a year. I am working on one, but have yet to finish it.  I also haven’t touched a memoir this year, which kind of surprised me.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
I hope to meet other book bloggers who also read nonfiction! I’ve met a couple of my best book blogger buddies through niche events like this, and I’d like to add some more. 🙂

5 Things That May Surprise You About Planning Your Wedding

October 24, 2015 Leave a comment
5 Things That May Surprise You About Planning Your Wedding

Oh, Bohotats, I had no idea what a hit you were going to be.

When you first get engaged (maybe even before that), you have a whole set of ideas in your head about how both wedding planning and your wedding will go.  I am here to tell you that many of those ideas will be wrong. Some of them in a good way.  Some of them in a not-so-good way.  But they will all surprise you.  So here is a list of things that surprised me about our wedding planning and wedding.

  1.  You might not have an “omg this is the one” moment with your dress.
    I did not.  Many of my friends have not.  I had more of an omg I have to pick one and this one is the right price and works with my body so I guess I’m going with it moment  I did have an omg this is the one moment with my wedding boots, though.  So you will have one of those I feel like a princess moments.  It just might not necessarily be with your dress. And that is totally ok.
  2. Who is super-excited about your wedding and who reacts like you just announced there’s a sale on broccoli will surprise you.
    It’s difficult to write this part without specifically calling out any people who disappointed me, and I don’t want to do that.  Suffice to say, there was one relative in particular who I had always just assumed would be at my wedding and who never RSVPed.  I called them thinking something happened with the mail, and they proceeded to give me the world’s lamest excuse about not coming (it involved deer hunting season), promised to send a card, and then never did.  In contrast, we had a friend come all the way from Texas (for my non-American readers, that’s 3,160 kilometers of travel), and we had friends who we had not known very long be incredibly enthusiastic and generous about our wedding.  To sum it up, a lot of people will show enthusiasm and generosity about your wedding. It just might not be who you were expecting.  As I told one friend who asked me about what wedding planning is like, wedding planning shows you who is really truly invested in you as a couple.  And sometimes that’s great and sometimes it stings.
  3. You will make a wedding website. And no one will read it. (Ok, ok, many people will not read it, and it will feel like no one did).
    I cannot count the number of times someone good-naturedly asked me a question the answer to which I knew for a fact was on the wedding website (and had been from day one), and I had to bite my tongue hard and answer politely and not say “Didn’t you even read the wedding website?! Do you have any idea how much time and effort I invested into that thing?!” Yes, some people read the wedding website and never asked me about things like parking or the weather or where they should stay. But a ton did not. This is a fact of life you are just going to have to accept. You can’t make them read the wedding website but you also can’t not provide it.  As Buddhism teaches us, accept reality for what it is.
  4. You do not have to provide seating during the ceremony. Or assign seating for dinner. Or [insert tradition that you don’t want to do but that everyone on the internet is judging you for not wanting to do].  You will worry about it incessantly but it will actually be fine.
    We didn’t provide seating during the ceremony because we wanted people standing.  I was nervous about this, so I offered to provide chairs to anyone who felt they couldn’t stand for the duration of the ceremony.  No one asked for a chair.  Our venue randomly had a picnic table near our ceremony location that we last-minute moved to the audience section as a seating option, and no one sat on it.  It was totally not a big deal.  Neither was not assigning seating during the dinner.  Now, I’m not saying this wouldn’t be a big deal for every crowd, but it wasn’t for our particular group of friends and family.  The bottom line is, you know yourself, your partner, and your friends and family best. You don’t have to do the traditional thing that the whole internet thinks you have to do.  You just have to think about what will work for you and your partner and your friends and family.  And even if you pick to do something that annoys the crap out of your guests, they’re not going to say a peep to you about it (at least not on your wedding day).  Because the worst wedding taboo of all is complaining to the celebrants.
  5. There is bound to be one throw-away, last-minute thing you do that winds up being a smash hit, and you never could have predicted it.
    For us, this was my last-minute acquisition of a ton of temporary glitter tattoos.  About a week before our wedding I remembered wanting to put on a couple of glitter tattoos for the ceremony. I found some on Amazon, but they came in huge packages.  I bought them anyway. Because wedding.  The day of the wedding, I selected out which ones I wanted and had applied them.  When my girlfriends arrived at the bridal cabin, they were all really excited about the extras I had spread out on the bed.  I told them to feel free to take them (just not in the same colors I was wearing), and it turned out to be a smash hit.  In an instant the bridal suite transformed into a group of giggling women putting on temporary tattoos, and the whole vibe changed from nervousness to excitement and celebration.  I had no clue that my girlfriends would all be super-into this.  I didn’t plan it.  But it was a hit.  Just another example of go with your gut and be generous with your friends and family, and everything will work out fine.

I think what all of these surprises point to is this.  You can plan all you want, but at some point you just have to let go and watch what happens.  So long as your planning was honest and loyal to who you and your partner are, everything will work out ok in the end.  It’ll probably even work out amazing. 😉

10 Tips to Have a Wedding for Under $5,000 That Still Suits Your Personality as a Couple

October 17, 2015 Leave a comment
10 Tips to Have a Wedding for Under $5,000 That Still Suits Your Personality as a Couple

The bridal pie made by myself and my father. The groom’s pie was made by my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

The average wedding in the United States costs $26,444 (source).  Depending on your region of the country, that average may be higher or lower.  In Massachusetts, the average is higher than that.  When my husband and I sat down to plan our wedding, we knew the average cost, but we also knew that our personal value system didn’t align with spending that much on one day.  We set a budget of $5,000, and I am happy to report that we came in under that by about $500.

I immediately sat down to research and discovered that the three biggest chunks of the wedding budget go to:

  1. The Venue
  2. The Photographer
  3. The Food and Drink

These are followed closely by:

  1. The bride’s outfit
  2. The wedding rings

I thus set my sights on these five things to help us come under budget.

There are a lot of sites out there that talk about general tips for how to save money on your wedding.  Here then I’m only going to talk about tricks that we actually used for our own real wedding that worked.  There are more tips than this, but we didn’t choose to use them.

Tips From Amanda and Phil on How to Have a Budget Wedding:

  1. Keep it small. Under 100 will save you a lot.
    Every single guest you invite (and their plus ones) will cost you more money.  For every guest, you need to send a save-the-date and an invitation.  You also need to feed them, give them drinks, and probably give them some sort of party favors.  In Massachusetts, if you have 100 people or more, you also need to pay to provide a crowd control officer.  This is a law.  My husband was on the fence about having a smaller wedding until we found out about the crowd control officer.  We then agreed to invite under 100 people.  After we made this decision, we discovered that many vendors also up the price starting at 100 or more.  Inviting fewer guests gave us a trickle-down money-saving effect.  It also made us focus on who really mattered the most to us.  Who we most wanted at our wedding.  It led to our wedding having a very intimate and personal feeling, which we both really enjoyed on the day of our wedding.
  2. Seek out venues that might be a good wedding venue but don’t know it themselves yet OR look for non-profits that need to make money in the off-season.
    We knew we wanted to have a campground wedding.  When I started googling, I discovered that campgrounds that had discovered this wedding trend had wedding packages that were…..more than our entire budget.  What I ended up looking for instead was campgrounds that rented out to events but didn’t necessarily specify weddings (or had only one or two weddings there previously).  I also looked for nonprofits and charities that had a significant off-season during which they needed to make money.  One important thing to know about venues is most of them will not post their pricing online.  However, a lot of the venues that don’t market themselves as wedding venues will post event prices.  This is a good sign.  Once you have a list of potential venues, even ones that post their prices online, contact them via email (you want this in writing).  Fill them in a bit on the vision for your wedding, ask for their price points, and ask your top 3 questions for your venue.  For us, we needed to be able to serve alcohol, have guests stay overnight, and have access to a kitchen.  Figure out your top three.  You should be able to get those.  It is unlikely you will be able to get everything on your extensive list.  Once I had responses from the top 6 venues, I ranked them by cost.  We scheduled and went and visited the two cheapest first.  I think this was a key part of our planning process.  It was impossible for me to be swept away by the most expensive because I hadn’t even gone and seen it yet.  We saw the two cheapest and then consulted with each other on if we liked either of them well enough to book it.  We did, and we booked it.  We ended up going with Clara Barton Camp in North Oxford.  They hadn’t done many weddings before but were very enthusiastic about starting to.  They also are a camp for girls with diabetes, so we felt good about our venue money going to a good cause.
  3. Ask your friends and family if they would be willing to gift you services or items you would normally need a vendor for as your wedding present.
    My husband’s sister Olivia is a professional photographer.  Knowing that she had just graduated, we knew she was still working on building a portfolio and also might not have tons of cash around for a wedding present.  We approached her and asked her if she would be willing to gift us wedding photography as our wedding present.  She was all for it, plus it will help build out her portfolio.  I have a friend who got married recently who has an aunt who is a baker, and she asked her to bake her wedding cake as her wedding present.  Both of these gifts saved us money and also made our weddings more intimate.  Phil and I never had to worry about building a rapport with our photographer, because we already had one since she’s family.  The key here is, think through the talents of your friends and family, and then ASK them.  Many people won’t offer because they don’t want to seem like they’re impinging upon your dream wedding.  But they will be excited to do it if you ask.  Just be sure to be clear that it is in lieu of a wedding gift or you might be asking too much of people.
  4. Buy your alcohol yourself.
    You will pay far less if you buy alcohol and supply it than if you do so through the venue.  Find out from the store you buy it from if they will accept unopened alcohol returns.  Many stores do.  We wound up just giving away some of the alcohol as party favors and keeping the small amount that was left for our own future use.  I also want to mention that we had an open bar and bought a relatively conservative amount of alcohol, and we still had lots left over.  Both of my friends’ weddings also had alcohol left over.  You will probably need less alcohol than you think you will.
  5. Use thumbtack.com to find vendors.
    Our venue required us to hire a bartender.  When I first googled, I kept coming up with expensive, high-class bartenders, which is great but we were having a campground wedding!  That’s when I found thumbtack.com.  Thumbtack lets you basically list a job ad.  You put in precisely what you are looking for (location, hours, special things to note, etc…) and then vendors have 24 hours to submit a bid to you.  You then can contact them and talk more to get a feel for them and either accept one or reject all of them.  This was such a time-saver!  I literally just plugged in what we were looking for and then let the bids come to me, and they came in far cheaper than I was expecting.  A lot of the people who use thumbtacks are small family businesses who might struggle to afford to pay for big advertisements or SEO.  This helps you find each other.  We were extremely happy with our bartending service, and it was quite reasonably priced.
  6. Find out if any of your favorite restaurants will do pick-up catering.
    We were really struggling with how to feed people.  Traditional catering was incredibly expensive, and I was personally uncomfortable with asking people to potluck. (Many of our guests were from out-of-town).  Finally one day I remembered reading about pick-up catering orders.  I checked out a couple of our favorite restaurants, and they did indeed offer this option.  One of them even provided all of the serving ware.  So we placed pick-up catering orders and assigned wedding party members to pick up the catering the day of the wedding.  Phil’s mom organized the food as it arrived and set it up in a buffet.  No one had to cook, and it was extremely reasonably priced compared to traditional caterers.  Plus, our out-of-town family and friends got to try our favorite two restaurants.
  7. Buy your wedding outfits from non-wedding companies.
    Don’t search for “wedding dress.” Search for “white dress.”  Once the word wedding is added to anything, the price gets jacked up.  Now, I didn’t want a traditional wedding dress, so I was helped out some by that.  But if you do want one, search for a white prom dress.  It’s practically the same style but much cheaper because it’s for prom.  What I ended up doing was selecting a few stores that I love but that cost more money than I am willing to spend on average everyday wear.  I then searched them for a “white dress.” I ordered the top three, tried them on, and returned the other two.  My dress still feels special because I normally would never buy something for myself from that store, but it also was only $348.  Because it was not a wedding dress.  Similarly, my husband just found clothes he likes and put together an outfit in the color scheme and vibe of our wedding.  He found his shoes thrift shopping, his blazer on Amazon, and he got his jeans from a jean company he really loves (my husband really loves jeans).  If you are assembling your outfit from multiple non-wedding stores, it helps to sit down with your future spouse and lay out guidelines for colors and fashion sense.  Our rough guide was red and orange 60s mod biker, and it worked.
  8. Keep your wedding party small.
    You have to invite the whole wedding party to rehearsal dinner, and you have to buy them each a gift.  Just like with the guest list, the fewer people the fewer you have to do this for.  We wound up having a best man, maid of honor, officiant, and two ushers, plus all of their significant others.  If we had added even one more person per side, it would have cost us at least $400 more between rehearsal dinner and wedding party gifts.
  9. Don’t hire a band or a DJ. DJ yourself.
    My husband researched and rented speakers (less than $250). We made a playlist together on Spotify for both during food and during dancing.  The day of the wedding we had a good friend announce us, but for everything else we took the reigns by grabbing the microphone and informing the crowd of what was up.  This meant we kept the exact timeline we wanted, got to hear exactly what songs we wanted, and we still got to be announced to the crowd.
  10. Buy inexpensive wedding rings.
    My husband and I are both active people, as well as people who aren’t super-comfortable with wearing expensive jewelry.  We ended up buying two silicone wedding rings.  These rings are designed to break off if they get caught on something, which is necessary if you work with machinery or in the outdoors.  They also are cushioned so you can lift weights in them, and they stay on when they’re wet, if you enjoy swimming or if you sweat a lot.  We talked about it and agreed that we would start saving up scraps of metal to have melted down into fancier wedding bands as a celebration of an anniversary in the future.  The band is just a symbol.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  It just has to work for yours and your spouse’s lifestyle and own personal fashion sense.  Plus, you can always upgrade at a future anniversary if you want to.

As an unofficial final tip, just remember, your wedding is about you and your future spouse.  It should include things you enjoy. You should be happy and comfortable.  Don’t let yourself get sucked into or guilted by the wedding industry (or the wedding industry mentality of various vendors you may deal with) into having a different wedding from the one you want.  It is totally ok to have a small wedding, a casual wedding, a wedding where you serve pie instead of cake, a wedding where you DJ yourself.  As long as you and your partner are happy the day of the wedding, that is all that matters.  And it’s a lot easier to be happy when you haven’t broken the bank.

Announcement: I Am Married!!!!

October 11, 2015 11 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

You may have noticed things have been kind of quiet around here the last month or two.  That’s because I GOT MARRIED!!!

On September 26th I married my best friend, and our wedding was amaaaaazing!!!  It was more than I ever dared to hope for.

weddingshot1We had a small wedding at a girl’s summer camp in Massachusetts.  What mattered the most to us was that our wedding matched our personalities. Every time we had a choice, we just basically did what suited our personalities the best.  Phil’s shoes he found while we were thrift shopping one day the year before the wedding.  For me, I knew I wanted go-go boots, and I think yoga pants are the most comfortable thing, so going with that plus a mini-dress was practically a no-brainer.  Where our personalities really shined through though was our ceremony.

ceremonyshotWe each had one person stand up with us.  We walked to the fire ring at the camp (rather than “down the aisle”) together.  We each came around the corner of the dining hall, which had a beautiful wrap-around porch, and saw each other for the first time then walked down the steps to the fire ring holding hands while “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes played.  Our good friend officiated for us (this is legal in Massachusetts), and the ceremony opened with our maid of honor and best man playing drums and digeridoo.  We had a handfasting (since we are both of Irish descent) and a san san kudo ceremony (since my husband is baptized Shinto).  We wrote our own wedding vows and didn’t know each other’s ahead of time, and yet they matched up incredibly well.

I will write a few more posts about the wedding.  I’ll write one with more details about exactly how it went and how we planned it.  I also plan to write a post on wedding planning tips with all of the many things I learned about the horror that is wedding planning (on a budget–we threw our wedding for under $5,000).  I also plan to write a post about some of my favorite parts of the wedding, and the things that were the biggest hit the day of.

I will also write up a post about our incredible 2 week honeymoon we just got back from! We went to Mexico, Nashville, and the Smokey Mountains (where we motorcycled the Tail of the Dragon).

For right now, though, just know that I got to marry my best friend, and while wedding planning was terrible, the wedding itself was incredible, the honeymoon was awesome, and being married is amazing.  Also, my married name is Amanda Nevius, but I will still be publishing under my maiden name, which I now dub my pen name, Amanda McNeil.

Giveaway: The Mediator Pattern by J.D. Lee (INTERNATIONAL)

September 16, 2015 Leave a comment

Book Review: The Mediator Pattern by J.D. LeeIt’s the fourth giveaway of 2015 here at Opinions of a Wolf.  Woohoo!!

There is ONE ebook copy of The Mediator Pattern (review) by J.D. Lee available courtesy of the author, J.D. Lee!

What You’ll Win:  One ebook copy of  The Mediator Pattern (review) by J.D. Lee.

How to Enter:  Enter to win by clicking here!

Who Can Enter: INTERNATIONAL

Contest Ends: October 14th at midnight!

Disclaimer: The winner will have their book sent to them by the author.  The blogger is not responsible for sending the book.  Void where prohibited by law.